Are Growing, Preserving, Cooking our own foods becoming a thing of the past - lost in the dust of history? Have these time honored traditions been cast off for the sake of convenience?
Do you remember the days gone by, where as a child, you watched from a perch on a stool as your mom or grandmother prepared a meal from scratch, using fresh cut vegetables from her garden, picked at their peak tenderness, juiciness, full of nutrients and flavor?
Maybe you were allowed to be ‘a helper’ in the kitchen where you got to stir things in pots, crack eggs, use the biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits, or just play in the scraps of dough on the dough board. If you got to do these things, your mother/grandmother was trying to instill in you ‘a love for cooking’ . You were learning from the best because you were getting a ‘hands on’ demonstration of how to do it just right. Their methods had been testing and proofed, so you could be sure that what they were teaching you worked.
As an adult you might have realized those ‘Seasoned Cooks’ who taught you the art seemed to have something unique in their abilities. They didn’t have to measure foods or follow written recipes. They seemed to have a special talent to judge if the recipe was coming along right by testing things like ‘consistency’ and ‘texture’ – the look and feel of the product. This is probably because many older cooks did not own cookbooks. They were taught how to cook, standing at the side of a mentor who might have been another family member or a good neighbor. They truly ‘learned’ the art of cooking, not just how to follow a recipe.
I think the definition of ‘cooking’ may even have changed during the last decade. The term ‘cooking’ used to mean preparing meals from scratch. From scratch meant the actual assembly of foods, staples, seasonings together to create an edible product – example: a pie crust, filling, meringue. Nowadays, I believe the term ‘cooking’ just means going into the kitchen and stirring some boxed items together and zapping it in the microwave or dragging out a bag of pre-washed lettuce and pre-cut veggies – mixing them together with a drizzle of bottled dressing, a bag of hard croutons, and a sprinkle of dried bacon bits on top and calling that dinner.
There’s no shortage of “Know How” these days. You don’t need the experienced neighbor or family member to stand by your side to ‘teach the art of cooking’ – ‘you tube videos’ have taken their place, as well as a variety of cooking shows on television. There’s no shortage of yummy recipes to choose from – ‘pinterest’ has hundreds. And there certainly is no shortage of kitchen gadgets and appliances to make the job easier. So, why aren’t more people ‘cooking meals at home’? It’s a ‘Time Thing’. People’s lives are so pressed full of activities that they have no space left on the schedule for ‘homemaking events’ such as ‘cooking meals at home’ or even ‘eating meals at home – sitting around the family table together. Life is lived in a whirlwind.
So this is the ‘new normal’ universe that we live in and what used to be the ‘common’ is now the ‘unusual’. Growing our vegetables in a garden and canning and preserving them is now uncommon. Being uncommon makes this time honored craft ‘praise worthy’.
“Grandma, Grandma, please let us know – just how you get your garden to grow” - Southern Traditions – Gardening – From the Grow Plot to the Cook Pot – We Southerners surely know how to grow it and how to cook it to perfection – Plucked from the soil at just the right time and rightly seasoned – produces Food At It’s Best!
Just when you think the craft of Gardening has gone by the wayside – you meet a refreshing young homemaker that is keeping that tradition alive and well.
In the South, we do things right! We grow luscious vegetable gardens – pluck the produce from the vines at their peak time when they are tender, juicy, and full of nutrients. Also, we Southern Cooks sure know a thing or two about rightly seasoning those foods until they burst with flavor – yes, that includes just a dab butter and a smidgeon of salt – okay, we use a lot of that stuff! Ha.
Last year, I interviewed a Northeast Arkansas Gardener, Elizabeth Garner, who raised a lush large garden – she provided pictures of the beautiful plants – heavily laden with their yield and shared some of her recipes with us. Follow back through the archives of this page to see that post and try her recipes.
This year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anet Cox, also from Northeast Arkansas. I must admit that I’ve known Anet since she was a child. She was sweet and enthusiastic as a youngster and has grown into a lovely, generous hearted young woman whom I’m proud to know. So, Today, I’d like to bestow some of that ‘Southern Pride & Praise’ upon local gardener, Anet Cox.let’s jump right into our questions about Anet’s Garden:
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Question #1 - Do you think Gardening and Canning Foods is a Dying Art?
Anet: Yes, I see more of it every year. Folks just don't have time, but you have to make time. It's just so much easier for them to stop by the store and purchase these items. I think this generation considers gardening and cooking as being too much work.
Question #2 - Why and When did you start growing and preserving your own foods?
Anet: As to the "Why" - so we could have something to eat in the winter months, and, to have food on the table that had that 'fresh' picked from the garden taste. I've been preserving garden stuff since I was a 'little girl'. I guess I was an odd ball. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who would rather work the garden than ride my bike or play, but I loved every minute of being in the garden.
Question #3 - Who taught you how to garden and preserve foods?
Anet: Well this one answer is not just one person. There were several. My Grandma Whitenton, My Grandparents Lane, My Dad, My former mother in law Joyce Morrison all helped with those lessons. I would have to share that credit amongst them.
Question #4 - Gardens come in all sizes - what size is your garden?
Anet: My garden is about 24x24. We just worked out the size through the years to fit our food needs year round. Some to eat fresh and some to put up for the winter months.
Question #5 - On average, how much produce do you can and freeze each year?
Anet: Well, the way I figure it, is by the meals, so I try to put up enough to make all my weekly meals for the veggies. I multiply that number for the winter months, so as you can see, I preserve quite a bit. I also preserve enough food to share with the family.
Question #6 - What are your favorite foods to grow and preserve?
Anet: Purple Hull Peas, Tomatoes, Okra, and Corn
Question #7 - What do you consider to be the most important things someone should consider when it come to gardening? Should they consider the space available? Sunlight available? Access to water?
Anet: Yes, all the things you mentioned above are critical. Choose the foods your family likes; plan a space in your yard that acomodates your choices and is out of the way of activity (kid's play area, etc. Make sure that spot offers atleast 6 hours of sunlight. Of course access to water is a must. There is alot to think about before starting your gardening adventure.
Question #8 - Do you compost? What type of fertilizer do you use for your garden?
Anet: I just make sure the soil I'm planting in is 'good soil' - well tilled.
Question #9 - Will you share some of your great recipes with our audience that includes foods grown in your garden?
Anet: Certainly. For variety, I'll include Corn Casserole, Squash Relish, and Sweet Potato Pie.
Those are really good choices, Anet, and 'Thank You' so much for sharing with us all, the beautiful pictures of your garden. It is certainly evident from this interview that this garden was planted with a love for nature and tended to with the understanding of nurture.
1-1/2 cups home canned corn
1 box jiffy corn muffin mix
2 eggs, beaten
1 (14 oz) can cream style corn
1 (8 oz) carton sour cream
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) - melted
1/2 cup evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients (except half the melted butter), pour into a greased baking dish. Pour remaining melted butter on top. Bake 55 - 60 min.
12 cups fresh from garden yellow crook neck squash
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups bell peppers
5 Tablespoons salt
1 jar pimentos
(Mix all these ingredients together - refrigerate overnight. The next morning - place ingredients into vegetable strainer - rinse lightly - drain off liquid - set aside.)
Place the next 4 ingredients into a saucepan:
2 - 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons pickling spice
5 cups white sugar (reserve until after boiling)
Bring vinegar, turmeric, pickling spice to a boil - then add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add squash mixture to cook pot - boil another 5 minutes. Pack into clean sterilized canning jars. Leave about 1/2 inch head space. Wipe rims clean, screw lids onto jars. Process in hot water bath for about 15 minutes. This recipe should make about dozen pint jars of relish.
Sweet Potato Pie
4 oz (1/2 cup) softened butter
2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 (5 oz) can evaporated mik
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs - beaten
1 - 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 unbaked pie shells (homemade recipe follows)
Mix butter, potatoes, sugar & milk until well blended. Add vailla, eggs, cinnamon - mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees oven (or until center of pie is set).
Homemade Pie Crust Dough:
2 cups plain flour
1 cup crisco shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp salt
Sift flour into a bowl - stir in salt. Let cup of shortening set in shallow pan of warm water for 10 minutes, then add to flour/salt mixture. Cut the shortening into the flour using two knives in cross-cross fashion (as if cutting up meat on a plate). Cut until mixture has corn meal texture. Add milk and stir until combined. Sprinkle flour onto a cutting board - scoop dough onto board and work into a ball. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Let sit room temperature for 1 hour before rolling out. This is a very flaky crust. Best pie crust recipe I've ever used.
Kosher Dill Pickles
enough small whole cucumbers or quartered to fill 6 quart jars
fresh garlic (6 cloves)
10 cups water
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup canning salt
Wash 6 quart jars and cucumbers, Put I clove in each jar and sprig of dill, then pack your cucumbers. Mix water ,cider vinegar, salt in a saucepan until boiling and pour hot liquid over cucumbers and seal, Solution will keep if you don't use it all, pickles will be ready in 5 weeks....
Thank you so much, Anet, for sharing with us your 'Bounty' of great information about your Love of Gardening and Your Great Recipes from the Grow Plot to the Cook Pot.
Oh, by the way, I spotted a bag of frozen pecans in your freezer. I'm tossing in one of my recipes to go with those. Here is a great recipe for Southern Pecan Pie:
2/3 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup white Karo syrup
1/3 cup melted butter
1 Tbsp evaporated milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup pecan halves
1 Recipe Pie Dough (Use Anet's Recipe 'above')
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Roll out dough and place in bottom of pie plan. Beat eggs. Combine salt & sugar - beat into eggs. Add syrups and honey to egg mixture - beat well. Combine milk & cornstarch - stir until smooth. Add vanilla extract and melted butter to cornstarch mixture. Stir Cornstarch mixture into egg mixture - mix well. Stir in pecan halves. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake 45 - 55 minutes or until center of pie is set.